As I mentioned earlier, 2016 was as jam-packed as previous years, maybe more so. It felt a like a transpacific, transatlantic travel-fest with more flights, more airports and more jetlagged sleeps than I care to count. I probably flew with every major airline, racking up the air miles at the same time. I love all that; every part of the journey forms part of the memory of all of my travels. But it’s the time spent in each of the destinations, the exploring of new lands and sampling of unknown cultures that really makes it worthwhile and last year will be hard to beat.
It's fair to say that March and April ranked as my favourite months of the year. During this time, large groups of guests were embarking and disembarking their cruises in Sydney and Honolulu, meaning we were stationed in each city for three weeks.
Honolulu, Hawaii: the name alone is dreamy. I fell head-over-heels in love with this place! Like Tahiti, it feels tropical, exotic and a million miles from grey and chilly Britain. For me, the beauty of Hawaii is that it is a perfect combination of a tropical paradise and classic USA. The white sands of idyllic Waikiki beach sit a mere two-minute walk from the main strip filled with endless shops – from tourist shops to department stores, and from high-end boutiques to chemists. All of this is intermingled with endless eateries, bars and cafés. Carefree tourists stroll alongside local shirtless surfer dudes and the palm trees sway gently in the Pacific breeze.
As an antidote to the glorious glitz of Waikiki, we decided to head up to the north shore of Oahu. Travelling like locals, we paid $2.50 each on the local bus which took us right across the green centre of the island. The contrast was breathtaking and showed us a whole new side to Hawaii, its people and its heritage. The scenery was so rugged; it’s no wonder this destination has played host to Hollywood movie teams shooting the likes of Lost and Jurassic Park.
Back in Honolulu, it's the atmosphere that draws you in. The warm, balmy air; the happy, friendly locals and the pink, swirling sunsets. Ah, those sunsets. All this makes for a heady mix of sheer happiness and paradisiacal bliss.
A Trip To The Big Apple
One more tour that I’d always hoped to be assigned to was the Independence Day cruise and stay experience in New York City! Every year, many ROL Cruise guests book up with us to sail on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 over to the Big Apple, spend a few days in the city (including the 4th July celebrations), before sailing back to Southampton. Another true trip of a lifetime.
We weren’t lucky enough to sail on the majestic vessel herself but we were there at Brooklyn port when she glided in past the Manhattan skyline. Our guests were scattered across several hotels in Times Square and Fifth Avenue from where they explored this exciting metropolis at their leisure, as did we in our free time. Rickshaw rides through Central Park, photos atop the Rockefeller Center, shopping until we dropped and dining in Little Italy – these were just a few of the things we got up to.
But the highlight, the very reason for our being there was, of course, was the night of 4th July. Along with our 250 guests, we embarked Spirit of New York, a glamorous little party ship which would take us up and down the Hudson River past the neon-lit skyscrapers as we dined and mingled. All culminating in an unforgettable firework display. How utterly exhilarating to bear witness to this world-famous celebration in one of the USA’s greatest cities.
[to be continued…]
Check back next Friday for the final part of Gillian’s Diary Of A Tour Ambassador series
Hailing from sleepy Northumberland, Gillian Lowes realised her passion for travel at a young age and always dreamt of glamourous worldwide adventures. Having worked in a variety of travel roles over the years – including as a Front Office and Operations Manager aboard a cruise ship – Gill became an ROL Tour Ambassador back in 2013. At the last count, Gill has visited over 70 countries!